European edition, Saturday, June 30, 2007

RAF MILDENHALL, England — Col. Brad Webb relinquished command of the only U.S. Air Force special operations group in Europe on Friday morning to his former deputy, who will lead the group into a period of uncertainty and change.

Lt. Gen. Michael W. Wooley, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Fla., traveled to the United Kingdom to transfer command of the 352nd Special Operations Group to Col. Brian Cutts.

Webb led the unit through a period of transformation and deployment, as well as its participation in the largest evacuation of Americans since the Korean War as part of Joint Task Force Lebanon last summer.

He moves on to command the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field.

“Obviously, I’m honored,” Webb said before Friday’s ceremony on his return to Florida. “My job now is to take care of the force, to develop leaders, take care of the troops and take care of the families.”

Cutts assumes command from his fellow Air Force Academy Class of 1984 alum. The change comes amid a transformation within the group and a possible relocation back to the United States.

The 21st Special Operations Squadron will deactivate its fleet of MH-53 Pave Low helicopters later this year and prepare to take on a contingent of CV-22 Osprey vertical-lift aircraft.

Wooley introduced the possibility earlier this year of relocating both the 1,000-troop 352nd SOG and its sister unit, the 353rd SOG from Kadena Air Base, Japan, to Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico.

The Air Force special operations commander did not discuss those plans during his address Friday.

Cutts will primarily be occupied with managing the day-to-day affairs of the 352nd, which is tasked with providing air support to European special operations forces in missions across the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

“I cannot think of a finer thing than to command this group,” Cutts said Friday shortly before accepting his first salute as group commander.

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